I am not a self-help person. I never have time to read and I have never listened to a podcast. Audiobooks are an enigma. I've never owned a book on cd. Not going to happen. So when N. dropped a cd in my mailbox last spring it sat in a drawer for a year. I was going through tough times and she texted me out of the blue that she had left it for me. Super sweet and thoughtful, right? I forgot about it until just a few weeks ago when I stumbled upon it again. I'd heard one too many Ariana Grande songs on the radio (I mean, she's great and all but how many songs can be popular at once?) so I thought I'd give it a try on my way to work. Everyone seems to be listening to podcasts these days. I need to get with the program. A book on cd seemed like a good place to start. I'd stop listening if it sucked.
It didn't suck. I can't believe I hadn't listened to it sooner.
Dr. Brene Brown's "Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead" was like a breath of fresh air! It was like Brene had read my mind. I'd been feeling so vulnerable about sharing my life with you and suddenly I had someone teaching me about the power of vulnerability. I can't recommend the book enough. Get it, download it, read it or listen to it!! (Yes, its six years old and I'm way behind in the times, but whatever!) It challenges so many beliefs we have about vulnerability, shame, and fear. Brene writes that the "uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure" of vulnerability "is the birthplace of love, belonging, courage, empathy, and creativity." YES! I was hooked. You can't avoid vulnerability. Ignoring it or trying to hide from it robs you of being present and living wholeheartedly. When you embrace it, you come out stronger, braver, happier and more connected to others. Hell yeah!
This part really hit home for me. Brene explains, "when something good happens, our immediate thought is that we'd better not let ourselves truly feel it, because if we really love something we could lose it. So we shut down our ability to completely enjoy so that we can also shut down our capacity for feeling loss." She calls this process foreboding joy.
I do it. All. The. Time. I forebode joy like its my job.
For example, on Monday night I was feeling pure bliss laying with our beloved Goldendoodle, Fozzie, because he's undoubtedly the best dog ever. No really, he is! His velvety fur and warm hugs are heaven. It's my happy place. And then it happened. Just like all the other times I've had this moment with Fozzie. I started envisioning the day he will die. I imagined telling my girls he was gone. I imagined burying him with his red frisbee in the backyard. I imagined holding him in my arms as we made the decision to put him down. I worried about how it would affect his little doodle brother, Samson. My moment of joy turned into panic and sadness! Why? Because my love with that furry guy is so deep it scared me! I felt extremely vulnerable feeling that much love for Fozzie! It's pure uncomplicated love. The best kind! I never want to lose it. I was foreboding joy.
How many times have you done this to yourself? How many times have you ruined a moment of joy by imagining all that could go wrong? Whose with me here? Let's imagine all the things that can go wrong during blissful moments to protect ourselves. From what exactly? Why can't we just feel happy and leave it at that?
Because feeling great makes us feel vulnerable! We rob ourselves from feeling the happiness and joy of our lives because we fear losing it. Yet, we ARE THE ONES MAKING IT GO AWAY by imagining the worse possible scenarios! Dress rehearsing tragedy does not prepare us. It makes us scared and miserable. Leaning into joy, as Brene calls it, is the most difficult and challenging of all human emotions. Joy is terrifying!! (I'd never looked at that way. Mind blown!)
One trick Brene's book teaches is shifting vulnerability to gratitude. I had my doubts because I thought this worst-case-scenario way of thinking was ingrained in my brain. But what did I have to lose? I gave it a shot. When I felt my mind going to a dark place, when I felt myself dress rehearsing tragedy and feeling vulnerable, I shifted my focus to gratitude. Gratitude is the antidote for foreboding joy. I'm so thankful to have such a fun-loving amazing dog that makes me so happy.
He is fabulous, isn't he? Life is so much better with Fozzie!
Refocus and embrace the moment. Be present. Feel the joy by feeling gratitude in moments of vulnerability. Feel the vulnerability, feel the joy! Who knew? Oh, and the silver lining to doing this? It strengthens our resilience. It gives us the courage and strength to deal with tougher times. It makes us stronger!!
Practicing gratitude takes some practice and you may feel like you're faking at first, but actively practicing gratitude will change your life. I wish I'd learned this sooner!
Here are a few examples of how I've practiced this new strategy in my life. I caught myself three times foreboding joy today and redirected myself to gratitude.
So there you have it. My tip for the week is from the fabulous Dr. Brene Brown. Stop letting vulnerability steal your thunder! Practice gratitude. Feel happier. It's pure magic.
If you actively practice gratitude or have another tip to share, leave me a comment below or send me a message! I love hearing from you!
Heidi shares personal stories of her ordinary chaotic life. She gives an honest raw look at what it means to be a mom, wife, counselor, and friend struggling to keep it all together. Her personal experiences with grief, relationships, depression, poor self-image, bullying, anxiety, and relational aggression give her a unique perspective on what its takes to overcome tragedy as an adolescent and adult.